Category Archives: Podcasts 2019

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-15 August 2019


Famine memorial, Dublin Source Wikimedia

In Our Time (BBC) I downloaded The Great Irish Famine months ago, and finally got round to listening to it today. My knowledge of the famine was largely shaped by Form Five British History back in 1972, and there have been advances in the historiography since then. Being BBC and all that, it was all very British (and not one word of Earl Grey’s Famine Orphan scheme to Australia that Trevor McClaughlin  has researched so extensively in his blog) but I couldn’t help thinking about ‘the caravan’ that has Trump so exercised. A very interesting episode- well worth a listen.

Today in Focus is the Guardian’s podcast service. While cleaning up all the saved podcasts that clog up my phone, I found this episode ‘Heroin and Me‘ where the Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer John Crace, talks about his heroin addiction when he was in his 20s. He’s the writer who coined the term ‘The Maybot’ to talk about Therese May (who doesn’t seem quite so bot-y now). This is John Crace, not the author Jim Crace, although as you’ll hear, confusion between John/Jim worked in his favour. It’s a very honest

Background Briefing (ABC) I seem to be listening to/reading quite a bit about public housing estates briefly. The Birdman of Surry Hills sounds quite a character, but he has certainly kept the NSW public housing authorities on their toes, taking them to the equivalent of VCAT over repairs to public housing. Mike Duncan is continuing with his backgrounding to the Russian Revolution by looking at Marxism and Bakunism (i.e anarchism). However, because there was an upcoming unavoidable break in his podcast schedule, he decided to add an additional episode before launching into the Russian Revolution on his return (not that this matters to me, as I’m always behind anyway). So, as a bit of an ‘extra’ in Episode 10.7 he returns to the Paris Commune of 1871, which he dealt with in Series 8 in May-June 2018.  Marx, Engels, Bakunin and the International were all around to see the short-lived Commune. In Episode 10.8 The Red and the Black, he discusses the difference between Marxism (Red) and Anarchism (Black). It’s a good summary, but you really need to have listened to the earlier episodes.

Spanish Obsessed. I’m feeling a bit as if I’m cheating on Spanishland School, which is my main online Spanish learning investment, but I’ve also found these podcasts too. They are all in Spanish, at about Intermediate level (which is me, I guess). This one Intermediate 27 The Earthquake is about Rob’s trip to Mexico, where he experienced an earthquake not once but twice in the same trip.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-7 August 2019

99% Invisible. The episode ‘Depave Paradise‘ looks at Mexico City, which is sinking as the artesian basin under the city is drained, and yet it floods as well. But there is one place that could replenish the underground lakes and control the flooding: El Pedregal, a large lava field formed by the volcanoes that surround the city. It is formed of porous rock, which made it unpopular to build on until Mexican Modernist architect Luis Barragán began designing houses on large blocks, surrounded by the lava flows and native gardens in the 1940s. But these blocks have since been subdivided, paved and filled with lawns and introduced gardens. (There’s pictures on the link, as well as the podcast).

BBC The Documentary. The Superlinguists continues. How To Learn A Language talks about second language acquisition methods and myths. Apparently, despite my grumbling that it’s too hard to learn a language as an adult, if adults spent as much time as a young baby does in learning to speak (i.e. 12 hours a day for about three years), we’d be better at it than young children are. Apparently children at school learn better with Direct Instruction, but adults are better off getting over their fear of talking and just doing it.  Monolingual Societies argues that dialects and variants are a challenge to even the most monolingual communities.

Easy Spanish. I have no idea how to find this podcast on the internet, but I subscribed to it through Stitcher at  The podcasts have been appearing weekly since April and vary in length between about 10 minutes and 35 minutes. Some of them are retellings of fairy tales (I listened to Aladdin) while others are commentary. It says ‘easy’ Spanish but they’re not – you certainly need some Spanish, but as an intermediate student, I can follow them quite easily until my attention starts wandering.

Hoy Hablamos. This seems to be free too, and it has hundreds of podcasts. My Mexican Spanish teacher tells me that they are from Spain. They seem to produce one a day Monday to Friday. If you subscribe, you can get the transcript and exercises. It’s much cheaper than News in Slow Spanish (USD$95 per year). If I listen to it two or three times, I can generally follow it.

Earshot (ABC) You should feel uncomfortable: One family’s time in Outreach International.  I hadn’t heard of Outreach International, a religious cult led by a man called Tony Kostas, that meets all the usual criteria for a cult: domination, financial demands, separatism, guilt etc.  It’s from a podcast series called ‘Let’s Talk About Sects’.

Boris_Johnson_in_2018Rear Vision (ABC) Recorded as Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, Being Boris- Boris Johnson does not reassure. What a mess.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 16-23 July

Who Runs This Place (ABC) Part IV The People looks at people power- quite a relief after all this depressing nefarious network stuff in the earlier episodes. Richard Aedy looks at the distrust of politicians worldwide. He points out that Macron was seen to have betrayed the movement that put him in power (and hence the yellow jackets) whereas Trump is governing completely for the movement that voted for him (and he hopes will do so again). The program looks at unions, social media (Get Up and Advance Australia) and indigenous politics, most particularly through the Uluru Statement. He finishes by observing that this was the only episode in which they were able to achieve gender equity, which goes to show who really does run this place.

13minutes13 Minutes to the Moon (BBC)  Website here. I wasn’t intending to get caught up in the 50th anniversary celebrations, but after a doco and a film, I decided to listen to this twelve-part production. It’s excellent. Episode 1 contextualizes Kennedy’s decision to go for this very visible project (did you know that he was considering, as an alternative, a big desalination project to solve the problem of water shortage?), Episode 2 emphasizes the youth of the people involved (average age of 26, many straight from university). Episode 3 focuses on that weird-looking, gold-wrapped Eagle module, and Episode 4 deals with the crash of Apollo 1, and its effect on the project.  Episode 5 is a fascinating look at the role of the computer in the moon landing- this one is really well done.

Heart and Soul (BBC) This episode A Spiritual Awareness from Space is narrated by a former astronaut and discusses the ‘overview effect’ of seeing earth from Space. As this episode points out, and demonstrates in itself, you interpret things from your pre-existing perspective, with either a more scientific/abstract or religious emphasis. I found myself bristling against the more orthodox ‘religious’ interpretations of the experience in space.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-15 July 2019

Revolutions podcast: Once again, an excellent podcast about Marxism, this time looking at Historical Materialism. I wish that I had heard this back in the 1970s doing undergraduate European history! If you’ve ever been a bit fuzzy about Marxism, this and the preceding podcasts are must-listens.

Earshot (ABC) In November last year, we began hearing about the ‘caravan’ of refugees heading towards the Mexican/American border. This episode Life on the Border:Tijuana migrant stories features interviews with people who joined this ‘caravan’, counting on the strength of numbers for safety and as a tactic for safe passage. Very human.

Rear Vision (ABC) When we think of slavery, we tend to think of the southern states of America and the British slave trade in the West Indies.  Less often do we think of the Dutch, and even less often do we think of Denmark. But Denmark did have its own slave trading and sugar plantation economy. Hans Jonathan was born in 1784 the son of a white Danish colonist on the island St Croix and a slave mother. After being brought to Copenhagen, he decided to escape to Iceland. The blue man was black: Hans Jonathan’s slave saga captures this unknown perspective on slavery and colour.

Rear Vision has also had two features on the signing of the treaty of Versailles. They are repeats from 2009. The first one, the Paris Peace Conference, looks at the various motivations of the different participants, including Australia.  The second episode, also first aired in 2009 explores The Impact of the Versailles Treaty. It’s a bit repetitive of the first episode, but it’s interesting in that Margaret Macmillan rebuts the idea that the Treaty directly led to the Second World War, and Robert Fisk gives a good perspective on the Middle East.

Duolingo. Duolingo’s Spanish podcasts are roughly 50/50 English/Spanish and at intermediate level. There are transcripts on their webpage, and Google Translate could help you with the Spanish if you’re stuck.  Mi Dos Papas (My Two Dads) is about a Colombian woman who decides to look for her ‘real’ father, only to find a father in another place.

rubbleHistory Hour (BBC) This program advertises itself as ‘historical reporting by the people who were there’. As a result, it focuses on 20th century history, drawing on the huge archives of the BBC. There are about four stories in each episode. I was drawn to this podcast by the feature on the burning of Kenya’s ivory stockpile (the remains of which are still in the Nairobi National Park in this picture). There was also a story about the execution of high-ranking colleagues of Castro in Cuba; the historian who translated Ann Lister’s journals; and an experimental facility where they deliberately gave people the common cold in order to research it. But the most fascinating of all was a segment on the introduction of tampons to China in the 1980s. It was a difficult product to market and even now only 2% of Chinese women use tampons.

New Books in History. This time the podcast is within the field Mormon Studies- who would have thunk that there was such a thing? The rather gushy interviewer talks with Quincy D. Newell, the (female) author of “Your Sister in the Gospel: The Life of Jane Manning James, a Nineteenth Century Black Mormon“.  In 1842 free woman Afro-American Jane Manning James joined the Mormon church after being raised a Congregationalist, at a time when the Mormons encouraged pentecostalism – talking in tongues etc.  In a largely white church, she was a bit like Forrest Gump in that she had connections with all the Smiths and the big-daddies of Mormonism, but she was excluded from the ritual of endowment (a type of priesthood) and adoption (a form of sealing making sure that relationships are for eternity) probably on the basis of colour. She was, however, allowed to be adopted as a servant! She was finally endowed posthumously, 75 years after her death!  Like all New Books in History, this is very low-tech and aimed at an academic audience.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-7 July 2019

Who Runs This Place? (ABC) Another very good episode –the States– this time looking at the states of Australia and the power networks that operate in that state. Think NSW- pokies, Alan Jones and Peter V’Landys and the racing industry; think Tasmania – Federal Hotels (pokies); think Western Australia- mining; think Victoria AFL etc.  I feel like having a good hot shower to wash off the grunge.

Earshot (ABC) With the one year anniversary of Ireland’s referendum result that overturned the constitutional ban on abortion, ‘A Sense of Quietness‘ looks at four women who spoke out – a journalist, a radio producer, the founder of a woman’s clinic, and a woman travelling from Ireland to the UK –  and the consequences of their stance. Very sobering.


The man himself: Karl Marx (Source: Wikipedia)

Revolutions Podcast. We’re heading towards the Russian Revolution, but Mike Duncan is taking pains to really lay the foundations of Marxism first, and these podcasts are excellent.  Episode 2 The Adventures of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels is just what the title says- a biographical sketch of the different lives of these two men, drawn together by ideas.  In Episode 3, The Three Pillars of Marxism, (i.e. classical German philosophy, classical English political economy, and French socialism and revolutionary theory) he explains really clearly the Labour Theory of Value. Excellent.

Conversations (ABC) In Australia’s Romani Gypsies, the ever-interesting Richard Fidler interviews Mandy Sayer who wrote   Australian Gypsies: Their Secret History. It sure is secret- I had very little awareness of the Romani community in Australia. The interview was first broadcast in September 2017.

Duolingo Podcasts  These are just the right level for me, and I can understand them without the transcript, which is very conveniently placed on the Duolingo website. This episode El Regalo (the Gift) is about a young Colombian boy who accompanies his parents on a bus trip to the coast to share Christmas with the extended family. But when three young men board the bus, there is trouble as they steal all the possessions of the passengers.  The transcript has enough English for you to follow along, even if you don’t speak Spanish

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 25-30 June 2019

The Minefield (ABC). This episode was recorded in the wake of the AFP’s raid on a NewsCorp journalist and the ABC’s offices. The preceding week the presenters discussed the raids, but in this excellent episode “What if the greatest threat to a free media was from within?” they discuss instead the avalanche of the trivial, which allows important questions to hide in plain sight. I’ve found myself thinking about this episode a lot.

Root of Evil Episode 1 Saved by the Ghetto. This is a true crime series about the Hodel Family and their connection with the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short, known posthumously as ‘The Black Dahlia’. Do I really want to listen to another series about a dysfunctional American family? I’m not sure that I do.

Revolutions Podcast. We’re off and running again- this time with the Russian Revolution. But before Mike Duncan gets to Russia, he’s taking the scenic journey but starting off with Karl Marx and the International Working Men’s Association.


Onate’s statue. Source: Wikimedia/Flickr Mario 1952

99% Invisible. This is a really good episode! I’ve had Onate’s Foot on my phone for ages, and I finally got round to listening to it, and then wished I’d done so earlier.  In 1998 an envelope landed on a journalist’s desk containing a photo of a bronze foot sawn off a statue in New Mexico. The statue was of the Spanish conquistador Onate, whose 400th anniversary was coming up, a matter of great pride to the Hispanic community, especially in the face of discrimination by the European community  (I’m worried that I’m using the wrong terminology here, and if I am, I’m sorry.) But Onate’s arrival had had more sinister ramifications for a group of New Mexico’s native people four hundred years back when he ordered all men to have one foot cut off – hence the envelope. What ensued when planning a new statue was another battle- this time about statues and commemoration. The webpage gives the gist of the podcast- but why not just listen to the podcast?

Saturday Extra (ABC) Geraldine Doogue is away at the moment, so Saturday Extra is in the very capable hands of Hamish Madonald. In Boris, Brexit and the British ruling class, Simon Kuper, a columnist with the Financial Times draws links between the major British politicians (on both Tory and Labour sides) who attended Oxford University, and the varying influence of History and PPE degrees on  their later careers. Absolutely fascinating.

And on the same program, Is immigration a form of reparation? is a challenging listen. And while you’re there, you may as well learn a lobby group who are not as quiet as they used to be, after Scott Morrison’s victory, in Who is the Australian Christian Lobby?

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 17-24 June 2019

Who Runs This Place (ABC) I’m enjoying this series. This time, Richard Aedy looks at The Lobbyists, those groups who use contacts in government and the lobbying miasma that surround it, in order to get what they want. Of all of the flaws of our democracy, it’s the power of lobby groups that disconcerts me the most.

The History Listen (ABC) Two programs this week. The first, The War We Forgot was really good. It examines the loss of Australian civilian life in Rabaul in 1942. I knew that New Guinea was an Australian protectorate after WWI, but I hadn’t realized how ‘Australian’ in was, in a very colonial sense. For example, did you know that people living in Rabaul were listed in the Queensland telephone directory? The mental image of an eleven year old boy holding the hands of his parents as he was shot as a spy by the Japanese stays with me. Well worth listening to.

But I was less enamoured of The surprising story of Wong Shee Ping. He lived in Australia after the gold rush and wrote the first Chinese-Australian novel, which gives a sympathetic insight into the predicament of Chinese women in traditional family structures. However, the author’s life seemed to fly completely in the face of his enlightened attitudes. A bit too Who-Do-You-Think-You-Are- ish for me.